Your publisher and dissemination options

In this section: Learn how to understand the differences between publishing and dissemination models, discover journals in your field, and evaluate those publishers.


Authors today have more publishing and dissemination options than ever before but also face a greater burden trying to decide between various models. Considerations include traditional issues, such as the journal’s impact factor, the quality of peer review, and its importance in a discipline, as well as newer issues:

  • how open the work will be (will it require a subscription or be freely available),
  • how soon an article will be available,
  • copyright and licensing terms, and
  • the author’s costs for publishing the article as well as costs for subscribers.

In addition, the ways in which authors can distribute their work has expanded. Besides the traditional dissemination models of publishing in a journal or in a book, authors are making their work freely available through:

  • Open Access (OA) journals
  • Discipline and institutionally based repositories

An author’s ability to take advantage of these new models depends on the agreement the author has with his or her publisher (see the Authors Rights section for more information). In some cases, authors are making their work available under liberal licensing models, such as the Creative Commons, which allow less restrictive reuse of their work.

Another consideration that is forcing some authors to seek out broad dissemination is funder requirements. As a condition of funding, some funders require that published journal articles be made freely available in an open access repository. In the United States, the most notable example is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH mandates that scientists submit the final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication and allow an embargo of no more than 12 months. In turn, authors are responsible for ensuring that their publisher’s Author Agreement allows for submission to a digital archive.

Understanding different journal publishing models

Authors have many ways of disseminating their research and gaining feedback from their colleagues. Blogs, presentations, working papers and even Twitter feeds can be seen as ways for academics to publish their ideas. However, most researchers in academic settings must publish in peer reviewed scholarly journals in order to secure tenure and promotion. In journal publishing there are three options: traditional subscription-based journals, traditional journals with an Open Access option (often called a hybrid journal), and purely Open Access (OA) journals.

Table: Comparing peer-reviewed publishing models

Traditional journals Hybrid traditional journals Open Access journals
Format Print and/or online Print and/or online Online
Peer-reviewed Yes Yes Yes
Allows external archiving Depends. Publisher policies vary and authors can negotiate up front in their contract. Depends. Publisher policies vary and authors can negotiate up front in their contract. Yes, in the OA model, authors retain the copyright (and/or license the article under a Creative Commons license) and can archive any way they choose.
Credibility Depends. Many traditional journals have a certain cachet from their long-standing nature or their publisher’s prominence. Depends. Many traditional journals have a certain cachet from their long-standing nature or their publisher’s prominence. Depends. Because many OA journals are much newer entries into scholarly publishing, many have not established high impact factors or prominence. However, this is changing.
Access The vast majority is paid access by libraries and other institutions and access is restricted to their affiliates. If author pays for the sponsored option, access is free to anyone online. Freely available to anyone with Internet access.
Timely availability Depends. Many journals now post “Articles in Press” before an issue is formally published. Depends. Many journals now post “Articles in Press” before an issue is formally published. Depends. Some OA journals do publish issues and post some articles in advance of an issue. While others publish articles on an ongoing basis as they’re reviewed.
Who pays for publishing Subscribers, such as libraries. See the background section for more on the issues with subscription fees. Author pays a fee to make the article openly available alongside the content that is only available to those with paid access. Depends. Some are supported by grants or an institution. In roughly half of Open Access journals, the author pays a fee when the article is accepted. In some cases, research grants will cover the cost of journal fees. Most journals with an author pays model have a waver or sliding scale for authors who do not have funds to pay. Many libraries also have memberships that include discounts for authors.
Examples Human Communication Research, American Historical Review, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Journal of Geophysical Research Journals that offer this will likely feature this option and explain it on the about page. Public Library of Science (PLoS), Association for History and Computing Journal, Journal of Nanomaterials, Theoretical Economics.

About Dissemination Models

Besides publishing their work, many authors are opting to make their work as widely available as possible online. Whether you can make a published work available online depends completely on the publishing agreement that you signed with the original publisher. Posting online can be done through an institutional repository, a disciplinary repository, department website or personal website.

Repositories allow preservation of the work for long-term access in the context of a collection – i.e. a body of work for a particular author, a record of scholarly achievement for particular department or university, etc. The University of Illinois has a digital repository, IDEALS, for this purpose.

To think about different dissemination models, the chart below compares several. Please note that most of these are not mutually exclusive.

Table: Comparing dissemination models

Subscription based journals Open Access journals Institutional repositories Disciplinary repositories
Format Online and/or print Online Online Online
Access With paid subscription (often provided through the Library) Freely available to anyone with Internet access Freely available to anyone with Internet access.  In some cases IRs allow embargos for limited time periods. Freely available to anyone with Internet access.  In some cases disciplinary repositories allow embargos for limited time periods.
Version of article Published version Published version Depends on publisher policy. Most publishers now allow the final manuscript (post peer review) to be posted. Some will allow the final published version. Depends on publisher policy. Many publishers now allow the final manuscript (post peer review) to be posted. Some will allow the final published version.
Indexing (i.e. how do people find out about these) Abstracting and indexing services, some search engines (Google Scholar), citations. Abstracting and indexing services, search engines (because content is openly available) Search engines, some aggregators (such as, and some abstracting and indexing services. Search engines, some aggregators (such as, and some abstracting and indexing services.
Use restrictions Generally under copyright restrictions Depends. Some OA journals license articles under Creative Commons licenses which, specify a wider range of uses. Depends on the publication agreement and what rights the author has retained. Depends on the publication agreement and what rights the author has retained.
Who pays? Subscribers Depends on funding model for journal. (see chart above) Generally the institution. Depends. Some like arXiv are supported through both the home institution as well as contributions from other institutions.
Examples Journal of Educational Psychology, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Biological Chemistry For more examples, see the Directory of Open Access Journals Besides Illinois’ IDEALS, some examples are Nebraska, Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations  , the University of Massachusetts at Amherst ArXiv, PubMed Central, Social Science Research Network,  the Open Access Directory  maintains a list of disciplinary repositories.

About Open Access Journals

Articles in open access journals are free because the publisher charges the author before publication, rather than charging subscribers. Research funders will often pay the publication charges.

  • Are Open Access journals peer reviewed? Most OA journals function on a peer review model that is every bit as stringent as that of their traditional print counterparts.
  • Who pays for Open Access journals? The most common model is charging a publication fee for each article. The idea is for the cost of publication to be built into grant proposals, so that the institution funding the research bears the expense. Many funding agencies explicitly allow direct use of their grants to cover open access article-processing charges, usually $1,000-$3,000. See this list of such funding agencies, maintained by BioMed Central.
  • Do Open Access articles have smaller or greater impact? Numerous studies have shown that Open Access articles have a greater impact. The Open Citation Project provides is clearinghouse for research into the impact of articles published in Open Access journals.
  • Who else benefits from open access? Taxpayers who have helped to fund the research (see Alliance for Taxpayer Access) and scholars whose institutions cannot afford subscriptions prices, particularly those in developing countries.
  • My publisher offers a “Sponsored Article.” What is that? Some publishers are now experimenting with a hybrid model. This is a journal that does charge subscription fees but the author can pay-typically around $3,000- to make an article freely available.
  • For more on the Open Access movement:

About Digital Repositories

Digital repositories, which contain preprints, post-prints, and various forms of “gray literature” (conference papers, datasets, etc.), allow an individual to publish in a standard, high-impact journal, and place the article — if the author retains the appropriate rights — in a freely available public archive. The primary goals of institutional repositories are:

  • Increased access to research: Material placed in repositories is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection and can be discovered with search engines (e.g.Google). Thus, placing your work in a repository greatly increases its potential exposure and impact.
  • Long-term preservation:  Implicit in the concept of an institutional repository is a commitment to long-term preservation and storage. The repository is intended as a permanent, stable home for works of scholarship.

IDEALS at the University of Illinois

The Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS) is the University’s digital repository. IDEALS is sponsored by the University Library and the University’s Office of the Chief Information Officer. Faculty, staff, and graduate students can deposit their research and scholarship – unpublished and, in many cases, published – directly into IDEALS. Departments can use IDEALS to distribute their working papers, technical reports, or other research material.

Discovering journals in your field

Would you like to become more aware of the variety of journals in your field? Here are some suggestions:

  • A great place to start is by working with a librarian who is familiar with your area of study (we call them subject librarians). The library website lists the more than 30 library locations which specialize in the various fields of study found throughout campus including the subject librarians housed in these locations. We’d suggest making an appointment with a subject librarian and letting them know ahead of time that you’re interested in learning more about Open Access journals.
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals lists more than 6,000 journals which divides the titles into subject areas. (Click the Expand Subject Tree link on the homepage for the best view of the subjects.) The journals are peer-reviewed and, according to the DOAJ website, “use a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access.”
  • The Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory, which the University Library subscribes to, allows for a robust search of journal attributes.  Using the advance search feature, you can select refereed and open access among other criteria to zero in on journals of interest. Note that this is a subscription service, so you should sign in with your NetID and password.
  • Use the Sherpa-Romeo service to browse or search for publishers who have the policies that will allow you to retain the rights that you want, such as posting your article in IDEALS. Sherpa-Romeo categorizes publishers using these colors:

Sherpa-Romeo service
  • Green: Can archive pre-print and post-print or publisher’s version/PDF
  • Blue: Can archive post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing) or publisher’s version/PDF
  • Yellow: Can archive pre-print (i.e. pre-refereeing)
  • White: Can archive pre-print (i.e. pre-refereeing)

Connections@Illinois allows you to drill down among colleges and departments and view the journal titles where University of Illinois researchers are publishing. At this time, the information is incomplete but does offer some insights about Illinois scholars.

Which journal is the right one?

There is no one right answer to that question. There are many factors that may influence your decision about a publisher -including your field, how long you’ve been publishing, etc. But you do have many options, and it’s worth considering them all.

Next: You’ve submitted your article, it’s been accepted (congratulations!) and now you’re staring at the publisher’s copyright transfer agreement. …  It’s time to move on to our Your Rights section.